back to article Atlantis spacewalkers snapped through shuttle windows

NASA has released a fine snap of astronauts Michael Good (left) and Garrett Reisman, caught on camera through the aft flight deck windows of space shuttle Atlantis during last Friday's third STS-132 mission spacewalk at the International Space Station: Michael Good (left) and Garrett Reisman caught through the windows of …

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$7bn well spent

I reckon the $7bn went into making graphite substitute that's unbreakable while still being writeable-withable.

If you imagine a bit of normal mechanical pencil breaking off and drifting into something vital in the near-zero-gravity, then it's money well spent. Probably.

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Anonymous Coward

Like...

An eye?

He's got a point!

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Paris Hilton

In case anyone spews out the usual Urban myth...

In case anyone is tempted to spew out the usual space pen myth:

http://www.snopes.com/business/genius/spacepen.asp

And the logo 'cause Paris would (maybe!) know this!

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Flame

Doesn't pencil lead...

...fly about and short out electirics or something?

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Water would pose the same problem,

and I don't think they have banned that. I would guess that the electrical kit is double insulated (or triple, or quadruple..) so that any stray conductor doesn't cause problems.

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Silver badge

It's a pencil

I always thought that pencils were forbidden because of the problems with graphite dust in the electrics, but a quick wiki (Writing_in_Space) show that they use them, along with a wide variety of other implements.

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Anonymous Coward

Definately a Pencil

It's a Pentel P205

NASA have taste...

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Anonymous Coward

Wait no...

Take it back, it's a Scripto MP... no wonder they're canning the Space Shuttle Programme.

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WTF?

How about the 10 button calculators?

Pencils aside, what about the 2 calculators with only 10 buttons?

Or are they something else?

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Thumb Up

Forget the pencils

...they're off-the-shelf timers :)

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Not Calculators

If you look at the linked / higher res version it's plain to see that they're some sort of timer.

Proof that even in space, you don't want to hard boil those eggs /too/ hard.

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Happy

@max allan

You didn't try to zoom in did you? Was that too difficult for you? They're stopwatches

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Alien

@How about the 10 button calculators?

They're stop watches.

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clocks

they are clocks

the buttons in the first row say HR - MIN - SEC, 2nd row T1 - T2 - T3 - T4

the 3rd row looks like start/stop - clear - enter

but i can't read the switch on the right side

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Gold badge

Electronic egg timers

After all, you want your orbit boosts to be for the right time. Too long and you'll overshoot. Too short and you'll just end up with an eliptical orbit that will be harder to correct and use more fuel than if you did it right first time...

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Boffin

CDN PT1A Digital Timer/Clock 4 Event Programmable

http://www.amazon.com/PT1A-Digital-Timer-Clock-Programmable/dp/B000095RCE/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

List Price: $19.99

Price: $18.11 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25. Details

You Save: $1.88 (9%)

Or bought through your Nasa preferred supplier.... (raises pinky to corner of mouth)

One million dollars!

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Boffin

10-button calculator

I took them to be digital timers

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Anonymous Coward

They are...

Security devices so that they can do their online banking.

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Anonymous Coward

Pentel

My 'not-quite-expert-anymore-since-I swapped-to-CAD' eye has 10p on a Pentel propelling pencil. Probably a 0.5 HB lead.

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Pencil?

I thought they didnt use pencils because the problem of broken leads floating into important electronic?

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Bronze badge
Boffin

Cleanest rubber I've ever seen!

Either that lot have very little to do up there, or they just never make a mistake in their scribblings.

Anyway, never mind the pencil - what's the BIG RED BUTTON on top of the joystick for?

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Go

Viper Testing

It's the Turbo button.

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Coat

Big red button

Nobody knows, the only time it's been pressed was on Challenger...

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Silver badge

Bah!

Thank you, El reg, for emboldening The Terrorists.

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Stop

thats odd

I would have thought pencils were a no-no due to the tendency to break into smaller bits when used. I thought they used pressurised ink pens?

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Thumb Down

Erm....

I may be wrong, but aren't pencils in space a bad thing ... especially the "mechanical" type that are prone to snapping off. Small lumps of conductive graphite floating uncontrollably around all that sensitive electronic kit could result in a panicked call to Housten!

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Alien

Proof...

....this is like the whole landing-on-the-moon-thingy! What proof is there that they are actually in orbit?

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Alien

Isn't it the International Space Station they are docked to?

The Russians are just sharing their tech.

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Boffin

So they *have* learnt from the Russians at last!

You used to be able to get "Fisher Space Pens" (I used to have one), which were supposed to be based on a multi-squillion dollar NASA project to make a pen that could write upside down and in zero gravity, as ordinary pens wouldn't work in space.

The UL is that when the first US-Soviet join programme, Apollo-Soyuz went up, the American astronauts showed off their space pens and asked the Russians how they'd addressed the problem. "We use pencils" was the reply.

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Silver badge
FAIL

But you haven't learned to read Snopes...

http://www.snopes.com/business/genius/spacepen.asp

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@AC 15:42, not quite...

http://www.snopes.com/business/genius/spacepen.asp

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Re: So they *have* learnt...

You can still get 'Space Pens', either online or at various office supply stores (Staples in the US, for example). Relatively cheap, durable, and pocket-sized. I have one on me right now.

As for the NASA program, it's a myth to further the concept that NASA wastes money. Fisher developed the pen on his own and asked NASA to try it.

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/613/1

http://www.spacepen.com/about-us.aspx

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Space pens

Were never a NASA project and the Soviets used felt tips for many years.

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Boffin

Urban Legend is right

http://www.snopes.com/business/genius/spacepen.asp

Short version: Fisher made the pens on his own without one red cent from the US, and sold them to NASA at a reasonable $2.95/pen. Russia also used the Fisher space pens. You can still buy Fisher pens, for more than $2.95.

http://www.spacepen.com/

As to why a mechanical pencil now, I figure that the space shuttle has less exposed wiring than the Apollo pods, and certainly don't use the near-100% oxygen atmosphere (Or else there'd be no aluminum, either). And I don't think the Fisher pens used erasable ink.

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<title>

Ok, so I know there have been a few cut-backs at NASA over the last few years, but come on - a pocket calculator and a pencil instead of a flight computer?

Or maybe they've just borrowed the latest in high tech equipment from their Russian comrades?

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Bronze badge
Stop

Not calculators

If you look at the full-res pic, those "calculators" are in fact four-position egg timers/alarms.

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Anonymous Coward

It would probably have more MIPS at that

And so would your phone. Space tech has to be certified and anyway all that software is reportedly in 8086 (not just x86, no) assembly, so they run it in as-faithful-as-possible emulation on 486s, that nowadays will be emulated on something else. Possibly a laptop running windows. Still and all, given the love NASA obviously has for nursing rickety extra-special-extra-expensive helpings of spit and baling wire up and down the well, it stands to reason.

If the USA had been serious going into space after "winning" the space race, I'd be writing this now from a cosy chalet under a dome on the moon. Alas, that was not on the agenda.

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John Carpenter's budget was too big

The inside of that thing makes the Dark Star look clean and high-tech. I'll bet they've both got spray-painted muffin trays attached to their chests.

Good job they haven't got a religious bomb on board.

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Bronze badge
Go

Re: John Carpenter's budget was too big

...and where are the moustache scissors?

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Coat

never mind the pencil...

a joke's a joke, but "C'mon, guys, let us back in now!!!!"

Mine's the one with the not-perfectly-airtight seals at wrists and ankles.

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Coat

Are you sure...

... they're not offering to wipe the windows over with a dirty sponge and a knackered squeegee and charge $10,000,000 for the "service"?

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Anonymous Coward

"calculators"

I believe they are kitchen timers, i used to have something like that

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Coat

Timers?

They look more like kitchen timers than calculators to me.

Probably to keep track of how long the spacewalkers have been outside.

(Mines the one with the jetpack on the back)

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we will never lose pencil and paper.

It's just far more convenient than anything else. I might be writting huge lines of code but if I am struggling with a concept I am gonna write it on paper to work it out.

Get a call and need to write a note? What am I gonna do? Jam the phone against my head with my shoulder and start typing on the computer or grab a pencil with my spare hand and jot something down?

The pencil is one of the earliest inventions (think charcole on a cave wall) and will almost certainly be the longest living one.

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Check out the Kitchen Timers!

Forget the pencil, they have 2 identical kitchen timers, but with different brand/logos on them :)

This is the one on the left, not sure about the one on the right...

http://www.amazon.com/CDN-PT1A-Digital-Timer-Clock-4-Event-Programmable/dp/B000095RCE/?tag=a56b2b-20&ie=UTF8

$18 on Amazon; hopefully they procured them that way, VS a $100K project...

I'm a huge supporter of NASA, but yeah, I do hope these timers didn't cost much :)

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Boffin

Not so silly calculators

Don't forget the Shuttle was designed about the time the first calculators came out... and then it takes about 2000 years to get flight certification for a toilet seat, never mind anything complex like a pencil.

I did attend a speech by a shuttle astronaut in the 80's (or early 90's i dont recall) and he admitted that they used a "laptop" (as in big black thing mains-only crush-your-knees ) propped up on the dashboard to show them a map of the world and where they were over it. (even saw a photo)

Anyway, the things that look like calculators are probably there to warn the astronauts when to change the lead on the pencil.

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Stu
Joke

I dunno 'bout the rest of u...

...but I'd be a darned sight annoyed at two workmen gawping thru the window at me every few seconds. "Oy! make us a cuppa tea mate". I dread to think what their hourly rate is!

Nice to know that Nasa are pointing out such slackers. Such cowboy builders need naming and shaming. I mean their work is only good for another decade or so probably too, you'll 'ave to get the buggers back in again in time.

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That's no calculator

That's a classic kitchen timer, as used by many a bomb-maker in the past. To paraphrase: "Not waving, but screaming 'Dere's a bomb on the space plane'"

Well, either a bomb or the complex life support resource monitoring system: "Come in, number 2, your times almost up..."

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Nope, the americans made a fancy pen...

The Americans actually spent several billion dollars developing their space pen which will (amongst other things) work upside down, underwater, on any surface and in zero gravity. The secret was the pressurized ink cartridges. The amusing part? When discussing this groundbreaking pen with the Russians aboard the ISS, the Russians mentioned that they just used pencils on the grounds that they already worked in zero g. Nice, huh? :)

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Scroll Up

Find Snopes link

Read Snopes article

Go and hang your head in shame.

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